The Victorian Minister for Planning has declared external wall cladding products to be prohibited from being used in the course of carrying out any building work in connection with buildings of Type A or Type B Construction effective 1 February 2021.

The following external wall cladding products are prohibited from being used by any person in the course of carrying out building work in connection with buildings of Type A or Type B construction in Victoria:

› Aluminium composite panels (ACPs) with a core of less than 93 per cent inert mineral by mass in external cladding as part of a wall system; and

Expanded polystyrene products used in an external insulation and finish (rendered) wall system.

Type A and B Construction includes:

Apartment buildings, hotels and public buildings such as aged care facilities and hospitals with two or more storeys; and

Office buildings, shopping centres, warehouses, parking lots and factories with three or more storeys.

The prohibition does not impact:

Class 1 and 10 buildings such as a detached dwelling, garage, sheds or the like as defined in the BCA Volume 2, or

Buildings of Type C Construction as defined under Part C1 of the BCA Volume 1.

These products present a higher risk to occupant safety when used in Type A and B buildings, and prohibiting the use of these products will reduce the risk of fire spread in multi-storey buildings and the associated risk to the safety of occupants, neighbouring buildings, property and public.

How is the Declaration different from the previous Ministerial Guideline?

The new declaration imposes an absolute ban on the use of Prohibited Products in Type A and B Construction and removes the discretionary use of the Prohibited Products through performance-based solutions.

The Declaration also imposes stricter requirements in respect of ACP products, allowing only 7% combustible content by mass (including but not limited to polyethylene), over and above the previous threshold of 30% polyethylene (which failed to capture other potentially combustible materials).

Will the Declaration affect existing buildings?

The Declaration will not affect existing buildings or permits applied for before 1 February 2021. However, the position in respect of buildings that are in the process of obtaining approval from the Buildings Appeal Board prior to obtaining a permit is unclear.

The Victorian Government’s justification for this is that the Prohibited Products are not inherently unsafe. They can be safe where they have been appropriately installed in conformance with a performance solution that has been designed by a qualified professional and reviewed by the Building Appeals Board.

The purpose of the Declaration is to reduce the risk of future inappropriate use of the Prohibited Products by banning their use altogether. In particular, the Minister for Planning has stated that certain performance-based solutions have been difficult to validate and that the scheme had been misused in the past.

A full copy of the requirements of the relevant Victorian Government Gazette can be accessed here.